Thou­sands em­brace Man­darin in Chile schools

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - YOUTH -

SAN­TI­AGO — Since learn­ing Man­darin was for­mally in­tro­duced in Chile 12 years ago, more than 10,000 stu­dents have dis­cov­ered the Chi­nese lan­guage, lo­cal daily El Mer­cu­rio re­ported on June 28.

Man­darin is taught at 16 city-run schools in five re­gions of the coun­try these days, half of them in the south­ern re­gion of Bio­bio, due to “a re­gional ini­tia­tive to get closer to China”, says Karina Pina from the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry.

Apart from learn­ing a lan­guage that many be­lieve will be in in­creas­ing de­mand as China be­comes a lead­ing global power, study­ing Chi­nese has the added ben­e­fit of in­creas­ing stu­dents’ cog­ni­tive and artis­tic skills in other ar­eas, says Pina.

“Con­struct­ing and un­der­stand­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ters pro­motes a high de­gree of cre­ativ­ity in stu­dents, which ex­presses it­self be­yond the level of lan­guage,” she says. What’s more, stu­dents who study Chi­nese “achieve a de­gree of cul­tural open­ness”, and ac­quire “a broader vi­sion of the world”.

In 2004, when San­ti­ago hosted the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion Fo­rum, Chile and China signed an agree­ment to pro­mote Chi­nese-lan­guage learn­ing. The pro­gram kicked off in 2005 at three city schools, with the goal of hav­ing 100 Chileans speak­ing Chi­nese by 2010.

In 2016, 1,704 Chilean stu­dents en­rolled in Man­darin classes. This year, China sent 18 pro­fes­sors to teach at schools around Chile. The pro­fes­sors are pro­vided by Han­ban, the depart­ment of China’s Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry in charge of pro­mot­ing Chi­nese as a sec­ond lan­guage abroad, through its net­work of Con­fu­cius In­sti- tutes. Two op­er­ate in Chile.

Chile’s ed­u­ca­tion min­istry has es­tab­lished a pro­gram to cer­tify stu­dents who have achieved a cer­tain level of lin­guis­tic skill, mak­ing them el­i­gi­ble for schol­ar­ships in China.

The min­istry aims to have the coun­try’s sec­ondary school stu­dents grad­u­ate with an in­ter­me­di­ate level of Man­darin, “the level re­quired to ap­ply for the schol­ar­ships China’s govern­ment of­fers to study there”, says Pina.

Con­struct­ing and un­der­stand­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ters pro­motes a high de­gree of cre­ativ­ity in stu­dents.” Karina Pina, from the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of Chile

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